Don Smiley to step down as Summerfest chief at end of 2023

NOW: Don Smiley to step down as Summerfest chief at end of 2023

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee World Festival, Inc. (MWF) announced Friday, June 3, Don Smiley, chief executive officer, will remain in the role through December 2023.

"I can't believe that next year it'll be 20 years, I mean that's really hard to wrap my head around that," Smiley told CBS 58.

Over Smiley's nearly two-decade tenure starting in 2004, he's over seen more than $160 million in investments and developments at Henry Maier Festival Park on Milwaukee's lakefront, helping to elevate the city's festival and music concert landscape.

"There's a lot of tours that come through Milwaukee now and that's due to the venues that we have and certainly we're part of that," Smiley said.

MWF's board voted to approve Smiley's recommendation to promote Sarah Pancheri from chief operations officer to president.

"We've had a great working partnership for a long time, and for me it's just really meaningful to step into a role with such a great teacher just down the hall," said Pancheri, who has been with MWF since 2015.

Pancheri aims to continue raising the bar at the festival grounds to bring more acts and more people.

"In the future, again, it's how do we leverage and how do we use this beautiful facility in order to bring more people to the lakefront and make sure that Milwaukee is the city of festivals always," Pancheri said.

Smiley said fans can be confident in Pancheri's leadership and ability to carry on his legacy of work.

"It's been a great ride," Smiley said. "It's been a lot of fun, we've done a lot of good for the community and we'll continue to do so."

It will be up to the MWF board to choose a new CEO after Smiley leaves at the end of 2023.Fh

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